The Highly Sensitive Person's Guide to Divorce
You may have heard the term HSP – highly sensitive person. If you’ve ever been told (or felt yourself) that you were more emotional or sensitive than others around you, you may even identify as an HSP.
As an HSP, you will feel more. You will enjoy more time for yourself. And you will be thrown more off-center by life events that rock even the most gregarious and emotionally robust of the population. Like divorce.
Are you an HSP going through a divorce? If so, how can you navigate this life change with resilience and grace … without letting it emotionally consume you?
Are you a highly sensitive person?
A myth exists that a highly sensitive person is a shy introvert. That’s not necessarily true. HSPs simply have a heightened ability to perceive and absorb the emotional nuances around them. Often, this causes overstimulation.
Here are some signs of HSP:
- Having a rich inner life and enjoying your own company
- Appreciating beauty everywhere in your surroundings
- Getting overwhelmed by bright or noisy surroundings or uncomfortable clothing
- Having underlying feelings of anxiety often
- Needing to offset social settings with quiet downtime
- Getting easily affected by others’ emotions
- Tending to get flustered or anxious in high-pressure situations
If you struggle with negative emotions associated with overwhelm, you may be an HSP. Knowing this about yourself can help you consciously navigate the inevitable bumps in life in healthy ways that preserve your well-being. And divorce is the ultimate high-pressure situation.
Tips for HSPs going through divorce
As an HSP, facing something as emotionally taxing as divorce already throws you out of your comfort zone. But you may have other misperceptions about yourself that could be working against you right now.
First, if you’re highly sensitive, you may have spent much of your life already feeling something was wrong with you. This is a fallacy. In fact, studies suggest that 15% to 20% of the population falls into the high-sensitivity category. But because we live in an over-the-top, high-stimulation society, the more extroverted and stimulation-craving you are, the more you are admired. HSPs are just quietly going about their lives under the radar. They may not be as apparent (or socially respected) as their louder counterparts.
Second, divorce is overwhelming for everyone, no matter how emotionally stoic they are. Divorce is difficult, and it may even be more difficult because of your sensitive predisposition. That doesn’t mean you can’t survive it. It just means a little more self-care and understanding may be in order.
Take it one day at a time
As an HSP, overwhelm is your enemy. Divorce throws you smack in the middle of the biggest overwhelm of your life.
Take everything in small bites. Today, begin by organizing your paperwork. Tomorrow, work on your finances. Submit your petition when you feel prepared and ready. Here is a checklist that can help keep you on task without viewing the process as a huge black cloud you have to rush to get through.
Identify your emotional triggers
You know as an HSP that emotions are highly triggering for you. What, specifically, triggers you the most in this divorce process? Is it the rumination? If so, give yourself 10 minutes to all-out ruminate. Then, cut it off and force yourself to do something else, like taking a walk or calling a friend.
Does the thought of negotiating with your former spouse strike terror in your heart? If so, make sure you are mentally prepared for any discussion. Promise yourself to take a time-out if discussions with your ex-spouse get out of hand.
Clarify your divorce boundaries with yourself
You now have to be your own best advocate. How much of your life are you willing to give to your divorce? Stop making it the subject of every conversation. Don’t work on your divorce paperwork when you’re feeling tired or especially vulnerable. If friends or family members want to “share” their opinions about your divorce (that you know you don’t want to hear), kindly thank them for their concern, and shut down the conversation.
Be good to yourself
Just as your physical health matters, your emotional and physical well-being matter immensely. Seek a mental health professional who understands and works with high sensitivity. Join a divorce support group. Cook yourself healthy meals. Get outside and move your body in nature. Run a warm bath before bed each night. Explore essential oils to feel clear and uplifted. Journal your feelings.
Find positive coping methods to help yourself through this difficult time. Who knows? These coping methods may even become positive habits you carry into your future.
As an HSP, feeling unprepared leaves you flustered and anxious. The more prepared you feel, the easier it will be. This means different things for different people. Often, it means educating yourself about the divorce process. It could also mean speaking with an attorney, divorce coach, or mediator who can role-play and walk you through everything you may encounter during the divorce process.
After your divorce
After your divorce, take stock of your HSP nature. Have you spent far too much time thinking your sensitivity makes you different or somehow wrong? In this new life chapter, it’s time to recognize your gifts and love the person you are. Your new post-divorce chapter is the perfect time to embrace yourself, move on from the negative, and get to know (and love) yourself better.
Your sensitivities are not flaws. They are attributes. It’s time to embrace the loving, creative, emotionally astute, and empathic person you are.
At Hello Divorce, we are dedicated to making the divorce process less emotionally and financially overwhelming. We offer online divorce plans and related services designed to inform and simplify the process to create a less contentious atmosphere for everyone involved. Schedule a free phone call with an account coordinator to learn more.
What Is a Highly Sensitive Person? (January 2023). Cleveland Clinic.